Unfortunately Jonathan Landay got to it one day before me, so we posted his story as our morning lead this AM at Military.com, but the report on the Ganjgal deaths of three Marines, a Corpsman and later a Soldier who died from his wounds during an ambush Sept. 8 tells a disturbing tale of leaving embedded training teams hanging and offers still more questions about the restrictive ROEs now mandated by Lt. Gen. Stan McChrystal's COIN strategy.
According to a copy of the executive summary obtained by Kit Up, the 10th Mountain Division Soldiers manning the TOC at FOB Joyce "did not adequately support the mission" and reflected "an apparent lack of commitment to support partner units with the same focus and emphasis as organic units." So, in other words, the 10th guys were more willing to dive in and do all it took to help another 10th unit in contact, but didn't take the same kind of urgent action for an ETT made up of Marines, Soldiers and Afghan troops. That is disgraceful.
Second, there is a clear issue of lack of air and artillery support here that needs to be addressed not just in the context of Marjah and other high profile engagements, but particularly with "distributed" operations like the ETT, PRT and other "advisory" counterinsurgency operations the Obama strategy calls for. These hybrid units have no organic air or artillery and are usually lightly equipped and armed. They are therefore far more dependent on CAS and arty than other other kind of force and denying them cover, or waiting a long time to deliver it no matter what the risk of civilian casualties is inexcusable. These guys weren't going after HVTs, they were in the middle of a compex ambush fighting for their lives.
From the report:
The fire support NCO on duty when the action began took action to provide immediate support to the units in the Ganjgal valley early in the engagement. The USAF JTAC REDACTED acted similarly. However both were overruled by higher echelons. Both should be commended for their attempts to generate effective and timely actions.(emphasis added)
I want to know who that "higher echelon" was and want to know what responsibility those officers have taken for this jacked-up operation.
Further, how many squared away leaders are we going to convince to do this mission -- of dubious career advantage, I might add -- when they see examples like this where the AO command hangs them out to dry? The report states that three 10th Mountain officer were reprimanded, but it did not include the names in the released version of the report. It did say that the battalion's operations officer (S3), fire support officer (FSO) and intelligence officer (S2) "were not continuously present in the operations center" and that their "actions were inadiquate and ineffective, contributing directly to the loss of life which ensued."
Feel free to read the entire released report below...and try not to gag too much.
One thing's for certain, the men who serve on these ETTs are putting it all on a very thin line and deserve our deep and sincere admiration. They are the ones who at the end of the day will prove decisive to victory in Afghanistan.